Editorial: A vision, a challenge, a proposal…The Rock River Trail: hike it, bike it, kayak it, canoe it!

February 24, 2010

Counties and some cities of the Rock River (counties in white, cities in red and Rock River watershed in blue).

By Frank Schier
Editor and Publisher

Ready for a hike, a little bike riding? How about some boating the old-fashion style with a paddle and even some camping gear?! You can hike the Appalachian or Pacific Coast trails. Rock River native Tom Bauschke did and wrote about each journey in this paper. Let’s blaze a new trail on land and water! The Rock River Trail: Hike it, bike it, kayak it, canoe it!

Imagine traveling down from just under Lake Winnebago to the Mississippi River on or along the 287 miles of the Rock River, through 10 counties and 33 cities and villages. You could visit what was once the largest man-made sea in the country, the Horicon Marsh, camp in six state parks, float around three lakes and see two pyramids—not counting the one that’s supposed to be at the bottom of Lake Mills! By the way, there’s at least 48 creeks to explore off the river, too.

Along the Rock River in Winnebago and Ogle County alone, you could enjoy three state parks, 11 forest preserves, 14 prairies and 15 creeks.

Just think of the huge inventory of natural areas and municipal and county parks in the 10 counties graced by the Rock River in Wisconsin and Illinois! Each county has a forest preserve district, and the major municipalities all have park districts.

Talk about tourism! Every chamber of commerce, convention and visitors’ bureau, hotel-motel and restaurant association should be thrilled with a Rock River Trail for hiking, biking and boating.

The states of Wisconsin and Illinois both have their state park systems and department of natural resources to help with such a project. Of course, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would have to be included because the Rock River is an international waterway, being a tributary to the Mississippi River, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.

Just so happens that this writer is a board member of Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA). I pitched this idea to our leaders there, Drs. Bob and Sonia Vogl, and they liked it. We had been wanting to have a Winter/Spring Meeting of the IREA for some time to complement the Renewable Energy Fair, Aug. 7 and 8, 2010, at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.

See you on April 26

→ You are invited to the Winter/Spring Meeting of the IREA, April 16-17, 2010, at Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center, right here in Rockford.

The Friday, April 16, Morning Session, 9 a.m.-noon, will be “Creating The Rock River Trail: hike it, bike it, canoe it, kayak it,” in a similar style to that of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Yes, the 287 miles of the main stream of the Rock River runs through 10 beautiful counties in Wisconsin and Illinois. Heartlanders, come to help create our own scenic water and land trail to preserve, protect and promote our sometimes wild, always pastoral and historic river, with its many significant environmental and cultural treasures. In this struggling economy, let’s bring some eco-tourism to our economies.

Points of discussion will include:

→ Existing inventory of campsites and assessment of county greenways plans for expansion of the campsite network.

→ Local, county and state promotional resources for existing and future assets.

→ The Rock River Sweep clean-up of the entire Rock River July 31, 2010.

→ How we can support the Clean Water Act and set up a system of pollution monitors on the Rock River, rated the most polluted major river in Illinois.

→ The preservation of farmland and wetlands, as well as the prevention of flooding through the sale of agricultural land credits or purchase of agricultural easements to contain urban sprawl, as well as a program to promote adoption of strong Conservation Design Ordinances on the local and county levels along the entire Rock River.

→ Returning smaller tributaries and the larger streams to their original state, with the possibility of restoring and expanding wetlands.

→ High school science class/professional design competition for most powerful micro-hydro, shore-station generators and storage systems to be awarded at the Winnebago County Green Business Awards this fall.

→ The Friday, April 16, Afternoon Session, 1-5 p.m., “Show Me The Green: Green practices for small businesses.” Rick Brooks, Outreach Program Manager for Professional Development & Applied Studies at UW-Madison, will present an operative workshop on how small enterprises can build on the local advantage by creating community networks of sustainable, independent businesses. Limited seating. More on this part of the program will be appearing in upcoming articles.

→ Saturday, April 17, weather and water permitting, we’ll canoe the Rock River from Oregon to Lowell Park from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Starting below Oregon’s dam, paddle to scenic Castle Rock State Park (1.5 hours, $35), or to Grand Detour, the home of John Deere (3 to 4 hours, $50) kayaks, canoes, paddles and life preservers provided, or bring your own kayak or canoe for free! May be canceled because of extreme weather or river conditions. Rain site CoCo Key Water Resort. For reservations and inquiries on both days’ events, click on “Contact Us” at www.illinoisrenew.org. Deadline April 10.

The April 16 meeting is sponsored by: The Rock River Times, Friends of the Rock River, Rockford River District Association, Native American Awareness Committee, Winnebago County Green Business Awards, Rock River Sweep and The Best Western Clock Tower Resort & CoCo Key Water Resort, 7801 E. State St., Rockford, IL 61108, (815) 398-6000 Toll Free: 1-800-358-7666, e-mail: dwight.hopfauf@clocktowerresort.com.

You may purchase meals at resort or local restaurants. Single or double rooms available for $89 each at the Clock Tower Resort & CoCo Key Water Resort.

Yes, we can build the Rock River Trail, and many will be surprised how much of it already exists! We just have to market what we have.

E-mail frank.schier@rockrivertimes.com if you would like to volunteer to help with the April 16 meeting at the Clock Tower Resort.

Counties the Rock River runs through:

Fond du Lac, Dodge, Jefferson, Rock, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, Whitside, Henry and Rock Falls

Cities and villages along or near the Rock River, Wisconsin:

Waupun, Mayville, Horicon, Hustisford, Watertown, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Edgerton, Indianford, Janesville, Afton, and Beloit.

Illinois:

South Beloit, Rockton, Roscoe, Machesney Park, Loves Park, Rockford, Byron, Oregon, Grand Detour, Dixon, Rock Falls, Sterling, Lyndon, Prophetstown, Erie, Hillsdale, Joslin, Moline, Coal Valley, Milan, and Rock Island.

Major tributaries of the Rock River

Crawfish River, Bark River, Yahara River (Four lakes of Madison), Sugar River, Pecatonica River, Kishwaukee River, Leaf River, Kyte River, Green River, Hennepin Canal and 48 creeks.

Parks and natural areas on or near the river, a  partial listing, with a focus on Winnebago and Ogle counties:

Horican Marsh, Sinnissippi Lake, Aztalan State Park, Lake Mills, Lake Koshkonong, J. Norman Jensen Preserve, Nygren Wetland Preserve, Millrace Isle Preserve, MackTown Forest Preserve, Hononegah Forest Preserve, Atwood Forest Preserve, Sportscore I, Forest Preserve Headquarters, Rock River Bike Path, Beattie Park and Indian Mounds, Davis Park, Blackhawk Park, Klehm Arboretum, Bell Bowl Prairie, Hinchliff Preserve, Indian Hill Forest Preserve, Fuller Preserve, Severson Dells, Jarrett Prairie Nature Preserve, Babson Hollow, Bryon Dragway Prairie, Stronghold Hill Prairie, Lowden State Park, White Pines State Park, Castle Rock State Park, Lowden Miller Forest, Rock River Yellow Birch Stand, Nachusa Grasslands, Sinnissippi Farms, Prophetstown State Park, Big Bend State Fish and Wildlife Area, and Mississippi River.

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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